Are Mosquito Repellents with DEET Safe for Kids?

We’re getting to the bottom of this question many mamas have always wondered: is DEET safe for kids?

Table of Contents

What is DEET?
Is it the same as DDT?
What are the dangers of DEET?
How to prevent mosquito bites safely?
What are safe alternatives to DEET?

Skip ahead to any section you find the most interesting!

Isn’t it annoying seeing your child’s arms or legs riddled with mosquito bites? And when that happens, we mamas are left to do the next best thing. That is to apply a generous amount of mosquito repellent lotions to keep mosquitoes away. But wait, are anti-mosquito lotions and creams with DEET safe for kids?


What is DEET?

DEET, which stands for diethyltoluamide, is one thing the majority knows simply because it can be found in many mosquito repellent products. However, no one fully understands what it stands for and how it works. 

The National Pesticide Information Center (NPCI) describes DEET as an insect repellent used to “prevent bites from insects such as mosquitoes, biting flies, fleas, and small flying insects.” The US Army developed DEET in 1946 to protect themselves when deployed in areas riddled with insects. Eleven years later, DEET has been used all over the US for the same purpose. 

For many years, it has mystified scientists why DEET is effective at preventing mosquito bites. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that some scientists uncovered the truth. Then, it was believed that DEET initially works by deterring mosquitoes from landing on the skin.

However, recent studies suggest that DEET doesn’t keep mosquitoes from landing on the skin. Instead, it only works when mosquitoes get in contact with DEET through their legs.


Is it the same as DDT?

You may have also heard about DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane), but it’s not the same as DEET. The former is the first modern insecticide developed in the 1940s. It was used to fight insects that spread diseases like malaria (spread by mosquitoes) and typhus (spread by lice). 

Although it was cheap and effective, it was banned in many countries, including the US, because it was an environmental contaminant and can trigger various diseases such as cancer, endocrine and immune system disorders, and more.


The Dangers of DEET

If the US army uses DEET, then why is it dangerous, you wonder? According to research published in The New England Journal of Medicine, most of the dangers in DEET come with long-term use. 

1. It can trigger allergic reactions

According to the NPCI, some people who applied a DEET-based insect repellent for extended periods “experienced irritation, redness, rash, and swelling.”

2. It can cause seizures in some cases

Although rare, there have also been cases of DEET-associated attacks. Some of them were even kids ranging from 17 months to 8 years. Research published in Human and Experimental Toxicology reports that children under 16 years who suffer brain damage can be caused by exposure to insect repellent containing DEET.

 “Insect repellent containing DEET is not safe to be applied to children’s skin and should be avoided” – Human and Experimental Toxicology

3. It is carcinogenic

Although studies have shown mixed results, there is some evidence that DEET is carcinogenic, which can be harmful when inhaled or applied to the skin. For example, a study published in the Journal of Occupation and Environmental Medicine shows that exposure to DEET increases the likelihood of developing a group of cancers that develop in white blood cells.


How To Prevent Mosquito Bites Safely

Mosquito bites are annoying. But it’s even more dangerous for babies! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlight that children can experience more severe reactions to a simple mosquito bite.

How to protect your baby from mosquito bites

Here are several ways you can protect your child from mosquito bites:

  • Dress them in clothes that cover their skin as much as possible
  • Drape their strollers in mosquito netting
  • Install screens on windows
  • Keep the environment clean by ensuring trash cans are closed
  • Avoid standing water
  • Use a mosquito repellent like Mama’s Choice Mozzbye Skin Protection Lotion (more about this later!)
  • Install electric mosquito killers at home

While adults can practice restraint when the mosquito bite starts to itch, young kids won’t keep themselves from scratching the bite. As such, they’re more prone to develop an infection.

But perhaps the most significant danger of a mosquito bite is the possibility of contracting dengue viruses.

According to the CDC, Dengue is common in more than 100 countries worldwide. In addition, 40% of the entire global population “live in areas with a risk of dengue,” the CDC reports.

Dengue can be dangerous. Here are Dengue signs and symptoms to look out for!

Signs and symptoms of dengue


Safe Alternatives to DEET That Are Safe for Babies

Knowing that you’re applying chemicals to your baby doesn’t feel right for Mamas. Luckily, there are natural alternatives that are safer but just as effective. If you’re on the hunt for natural bug repellents, look for ones that contain citronella, lavender or andiroba seed oil.

1. Citronella Oil

Citronella oil is a well-known natural insect repellent. Citronella oil is equally effective as DEET if blended with a suitable formulation. But do note that since it’s all-natural, it needs to be reapplied more often.

2. Andiroba Seed Oil

This may be the first time you heard of Andiroba Seed Oil. Still, it’s a natural ingredient that has been clinically proven effective in repelling mosquitoes, especially the type Aedes aegypti which causes dengue fever.

3. Lavender Oil

Lavender oil is a favourite natural remedy with many benefits. While it has a fragrant aroma to humans, mosquitoes don’t like it. It works similarly to DEET but is 100% safer. In addition to repelling mosquitoes effectively, lavender oil has a calming and soothing effect on irritated skin.

Citronella oil as mosquito repellent

While the hidden dangers of DEET insect repellents can be worrying, it doesn’t mean there are no other options for us, Mamas. From sprays to lotions, look out for the ingredients in the mosquito repellent you choose, avoid those with DEET or DDT, and go for natural-based products!

Keep Mosquitoes Away With Mama’s Choice Mozzbye Skin Protection Lotion


You don’t need to look far for a safer and more natural option for your little one, Mama. With Mama’s Choice Mozzbye Skin Protection Lotion, you can enjoy 8 hours of protection from mosquitoes without worrying about harmful and toxic chemicals.

Instead, Mama’s Choice Mozzbye Skin Protection Lotion harnesses the power of 6 natural oils to repel mosquitoes, including andiroba oil and lavender oil. In addition, Mama’s Choice Mozzbye Skin Protection Lotion is clinically tested to protect babies from mosquitoes for 8 hours.

It’s 100% free of harmful ingredients such as DDT, DEET, parabens, mineral oil, and fragrance. Even better, itt has also been certified Halal!


Get a 20% Discount on Mama’s Choice Baby Mozzbye Skin Protection Lotion | $19.90 $15.90

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Author Mama's Choice Team

Mama's Choice Team

A team of passionate writers, young mamas, and creative superheroes who help mamas face motherhood one educational article at a time!


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